Water Polo Wilson

CIF Boys’ Water Polo: Wilson Falls To Loyola In Division 1 Semifinal

All of The562’s water polo coverage for the 2021-22 school year is sponsored by Aqualand. Visit AqualandOfTheFree.com to learn more.

Margins of error are minuscule in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 boys’ water polo semifinals, and Wilson was reacquainted with that lesson on Wednesday night at Woollett Aquatic Center.

A few self-inflicted Wilson miscues opened the door for Loyola to grab a lead in the second quarter that the Cubs wouldn’t relinquish. The Bruins battled into the fourth quarter but ultimately had their season ended with a 12-9 loss. Loyola will face Oaks Christian in the championship game on Saturday.

“Those types of games always hinge on small things that don’t go your way,” Wilson coach Jeff Nesmith said. “I’m disappointed because it’s tough to see these guys lose because they put in so much work and they wanted it so bad.”

Nesmith specifically talked about the nine seniors who took Wilson from a second-round exit in Division 3 when they were sophomores to the final four of Division 1 in two seasons.

“Obviously that’s not how we wanted to finish but I feel like we made a lot of believers tonight,” Wilson senior Carson Krueger said. “Wilson is back in Division 1 and we’re ready to battle. Even though (the senior class) is gone next year I know guys like Sean Tunnicliff and Brady Simon can step it up. They’re going to be great leaders on this team next year.”

Support The562.org

While Loyola dedicated most of its defensive attention on Carson, Krueger and Hank Rivers found those open shooting lanes. Krueger finished with a game-high five goals. Rivers chipped in a hat trick, two steals and a field block. Carson had three assists but was held without a goal after scoring a combined 12 goals in the first two playoff wins.

“They did a great job with a great defensive plan for (Carson),” Nesmith said. “We let some other guys get into those shooting lanes. (Krueger) really had some great shots from the outside where he’s our best shooter. He got a lot of looks because they were on Gray so much.”

Two goals from Loyola attacker Christopher Wazzan gave the Cubs an early lead, but Rivers answered quickly to cut the lead in half. With 1:30 left in the quarter, Carson drew in the defense and dished off to Krueger for the tying goal.

“Coming into the game we knew that every team we play from now on are going after Gray,” Krueger said. “Some of our other guys like Sean Tunnicliff played ODP with kids from Loyola so I realized that they didn’t know who I am and I’d be wide open. So I tried to take it into my hands to get us some offense.”

It looked like Wilson had drawn the 5-meter penalty shot that could give them the lead early in the second quarter, but Loyola goalkeeper Calvin Cardenas stopped Carson’s skip shot to shift the momentum. Cardenas finished with eight saves.

Loyola’s William Sanchez scored three consecutive goals in the second quarter to take the lead. Just like the first quarter, goals from Rivers and Krueger cut the Loyola lead to 6-4 at halftime.

“I’m proud of the guys for battling back and not letting that game get away from them,” Nesmith said. “(Loyola) had pinpoint outside shooting and that was a difference maker.”

Those shots from the outside, and some sloppy Wilson turnovers, helped Loyola maintain its lead and fend off any Bruins comeback. Wilson only trailed by two goals going into the fourth quarter, but Cardenas came up with three consecutive saves to protect the lead and see out the victory.

Wilson returned to the CIF semifinals for the first time since 2012, and won a 14th consecutive Moore League title, thanks to the leadership and elite talent of graduating seniors like Carson, Rivers and Zac Crenshaw. Nesmith knows his program will have to rebuild for next season.

“It will be a new generation that comes though Wilson,” Nesmith said. “They’ve got a lot to live up to. Hopefully they felt that intensity tonight. Sometimes you’ve just got to get used to that. If you’re not used to it you get the jitters. We haven’t had that in so long so it’s good to be a part of it.”

VIDEO: Wilson vs. Loyola, CIF Boys’ Water Polo

PHOTOS: Wilson vs. Loyola, CIF Boys’ Water Polo

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.